“‘Listen. When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. Then it happens we were in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it. It’s bad all around — bad for that one organization, bad for every detective everywhere.Third, I’m a detective and expecting me to run criminals down and then let them go free is like asking a dog to catch a rabbit and let it go. It can be done, all right, and sometimes it is done, but it’s not the natural thing. The only way I could have let you go was by letting Gutman and Cairo and the kid go. That’s–’”
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1929, 1930, page 213-214.
In this passage, Samuel Spade is talking to Brigid O’Shaughnessy after he revealed that he would turn her in to the police when he realized that she was the one who killed his former partner, Miles Archer. By saying that he should do something about his partner being killed, even if he did not like Miles very much while he was alive, Samuel Spade also reveals in this scene that he has rules that he likes to stick by, which I feel like he has not spoken about during the whole novel until this very moment. Throughout the whole book, it seems that Sam would be willing to lie, cheat, and steal for his own goals and to gain the upper hand, so it would not have surprised me if he let at least one of the criminals go, or even if he allowed them all to be free so that he would get some of the millions of money that the criminals could have shared with him if they successfully got away and sold the Maltese Falcon. However, by turning in all of the criminals for their wrongdoing, and saying that he was doing so for the sake of his murdered business partner, even if he was not so great of a person, my expectations for Samuel Spade’s actions were exceeded, and shows me that he does actually care about doing the thing that he feels is right to do, though it seems he only puts that under consideration during certain situations he finds himself in.
“‘He came up here with his mouth watering, though you’d have sense enough to know I’d been stringing Gutman.’”
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1930, page 216.
Here, Spade reveals that he was just pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans in exchange for a cut of the money he would get from the falcon, however, as he says here, Spade was actually going to hand them all in to the police, and this likely would have happened exactly as planned if they hadn’t gotten a fake bird and tried to escape. However, this was revealed at the very end of the book, and due to Spade’s shown greediness with money, as well as his insistence on the others of his plan to leave out details to the police, which he would often tell his employees to do, I feel that the audience would expect him to let the criminals get away as long as he would get the money he was promised. He does eventually end up calling the police and tells them about all the details of the criminals and their plan to get the real falcon, despite their offer to still let him help for the money, which could be proof of Spade following his moral code as a detective. Also, in this quote, Spade is saying that Tom Polhaus would know that he would only be pretending to go along with Gutman’s plans, which implies that perhaps in the past, he had kept facts about cases from him or went along with the plans of other criminals, but only to turn them into the police and reveal all of the details of the crime, showing that he stays true to the job he has to do, as a true detective would do. This shows that even though he may lie, joke, keep secrets from the police, and help criminals in some situations, that Spade does always follow his moral code as a detective to turn in all criminals to the police, despite their proposals or promises or emotions that he could be tempted by.
“[Flitcraft] wasn’t sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. I don’t think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that’s the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. 1929. New York: Vintage, 1957, page 84.
“Spade emptied the unconscious man’s pockets one by one, working methodically, moving the lax body when necessary, making a pile of the pockets’ contents on the desk. When the last pocket had been turned out he returned to his own chair, rolled and lighted a cigarette, and began to examine his spoils. He examined them with grave unhurried thoroughness.”
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. First Vintage Crime, 1992, page 47.